Dear Members of the Campus Community,
I am writing to share that our re-opening plan has received formal approval from SUNY and to update you about how the plan guides our preparation for the return of students and employees this fall. We know that the uncertainties of the past four months have been challenging, and life on campus will surely not look the same as it did pre-pandemic. However, our goal is to provide high-quality learning experiences in ways that prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.
The plan is highly detailed and dense and so we encourage the campus to review this communication and the FAQs that we hope will address your most pressing questions as you prepare for fall. In addition, we will be holding a Facebook Live session today at 4 p.m. with key student affairs, finance and academic affairs staff. A virtual town hall on Tuesday, July 7 (2-4 p.m.), will focus on employee questions. Stay tuned for information on how to participate.
Given the pandemic’s continued uncertainty, we remind you that our approved campus plan is still subject to change due to new information, guidance and/or direction from the state. We know it will not be like any other semester any of us have experienced. We must have a mindset of “we,” not “me,” and safeguard the health of those around us by wearing masks, following social distancing and cleaning protocols. If we don’t, we will likely face a return to an all-remote environment.
I am heartened by faculty who continue to demonstrate their commitment to our mission and to educating our students in this new landscape. I’m grateful to staff and administrators who have and continue to help in planning and supporting needed changes.
As conditions remain fluid, we have been encouraging faculty to prepare for both online and seated modalities with the understanding that a mid-semester pivot to distance learning may become necessary if pandemic conditions require. We are providing ongoing training to faculty on online/remote teaching to help prepare for contingency scenarios. We are also preparing additional training for students to assist them with remote learning.
As we plan to have a limited “live,” residential fall semester, we hope to provide appropriate ways to create community and provide a rich campus life for students, faculty and staff within the safety guidelines necessary for the evolving situation. This includes a blend of small, socially distanced face-to-face gatherings and events as well as creative virtual programming. Stay tuned for invitations to a reimagined Convocation experience and a live-streamed State of the College address.
Here is a summary of topics with further detail below.
- Classes will begin Monday, Aug. 24, per our existing schedule, and instruction will cease on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The final exam period will be on-line after Thanksgiving.
- We will offer a mix of remote, online and face-to-face courses and employ strategies to appropriately support lecture and seminar-style courses, research activities, as well as lab-based and other face-to-face courses under strict social distancing, personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols from guidance provided by the Governor, New York State and Ulster County Health Department and SUNY,
- Residence hall capacity will be reduced. Students will be required to quarantine for a period before the start of seated classes, per the Governor’s recent directive. International students must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival; those living on campus should arrive by Aug. 5. New students must quarantine at home for seven days prior to arriving on campus. New students will move in Aug. 16-18 and will be expected to comply with safe behavior measures and practices during their first seven days on campus. Returning students will move in Aug. 20-23 and will quarantine at home for seven days prior to arriving on campus.
- All students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks or other face coverings in classrooms, restrooms, elevators, lecture halls, common spaces, studios and labs whenever they are occupied by more than one person.
- All students will be required to complete a daily health screening (self-screening) and self- report. This screening will be required for two weeks prior to arrival on campus and for each day they will be on campus. Student Health Service will offer some COVID-19 testing. They will also be able to write prescriptions to allow students to get tested at community sites.
- Employees will also complete a daily health screening, but we will not require employees to test prior to returning to campus.
- A process to request ADA accommodations for faculty, staff and students who may have health issues that raise particular concerns related to COVID-19 is available. The college will also support, to the extent possible, employees with non-ADA, work-life balance concerns or general concerns about returning to campus.
In-person and remote classes. We will reduce the number and size of our in-person classes to reduce density and maintain safe social distancing. We will continue to provide faculty with training and resources to prepare high-quality courses in remote and online formats, and schedule courses in a way that optimizes seated instruction consistent with public health guidelines.
Academic calendar.While classes will begin as scheduled on Monday, August 24, we have revised the fall academic calendar to cease instruction on Wednesday, November 25, to reduce the possibility of reinfection from Thanksgiving travel. The final exam period will be online after Thanksgiving.
We have increased the number of instructional days before Thanksgiving by using Labor Day and Fall Break.
Social distancing for in-person classes. The College is reducing density within classrooms and other academic spaces, including establishing a social distancing parameter of 36-square-feet per occupant.
Expectations for personal protective equipment (PPE). All students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks or other face coverings in classrooms, restrooms, elevators, lecture halls, common spaces, studios and labs whenever they are occupied by more than one person. Everyone in a space by them self must be prepared to immediately don a mask if someone else enters the space (say, an elevator).
Residence halls. Residence halls will be open with reduced density to allow on-campus housing for students, including first-year students, international students, students who face housing situations that present barriers to access and support for academic success, and students in programs with heavy lab, studio, equipment-intensive and clinical components. There will be no tripled rooms this fall. Visitors will not be allowed in residence halls except with prior administrative approval. Students will be required to quarantine for a period before the start of the semester, per the governor’s recent guidance for reopening of colleges and universities. International students must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Dining. Sodexo, the College’s food service provider, has adopted new protocols to ensure that students can safely enjoy meals on campus. This will include a phased approach to reopening that begins with all food venues operating as grab-and-go. As conditions allow, Sodexo plans to progress toward a more relaxed phase where dining rooms can be staged for social distancing.
Events and gatherings. Limited in-person events and gatherings will be offered on a very limited basis with prior approval. Any proposed live event or gathering must comply with current public health policy. Campus groups considering holding a face-to-face event or gathering will be required to submit a brief narrative to the appropriate office responsible for space assignments.
Student Handbook changes. The Student Handbook has been amended to include the expectation that residential and commuter students adhere to COVID-19 related safety protocols. On-campus residential students will sign a housing license addendum advising them of public health policy, expectations of the College concerning those policies, and potential consequences for not complying with policies.
International students. All international students who have been in another country on or after July 31, 2020, will be tested soon after arrival on campus and will be quarantined for 14 days upon their arrival, regardless of test results.
Intercollegiate athletics. The College will follow SUNY, SUNY Athletic Conference and NCAA guidelines regarding intercollegiate fall sports. Any fall sport teams will begin with a phased approach on Aug. 24, 2020, consistent with NCAA policy.
Vulnerable populations. We are aware that specific populations (students, faculty, and staff) are more vulnerable to the health risk of COVID-19 and will support them in multiple ways. Moreover, some vulnerable student populations are also more likely to experience marginalization/alienation, academic challenges and attrition, and students of color will be coming to our campuses with heightened anger, fear, and anxiety in the wake of recent events across the country. These concerns about equity and inclusion add an additional dynamic in our goal of supporting vulnerable populations. Please review a list of actions on our FAQ page that we will take to support these students and employees.
Student screening/testing prior to arrival.All students will be required to complete a daily health screening (self-screening) and self-report for current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recognized COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to confirmed COVID-19 cases using an app or online reporting system. This screening will be required for two weeks prior to arrival on campus and, as noted below, each day they will be on campus. More information will be forthcoming. If a student’s responses indicate symptoms or exposure, they will receive an automated response notifying them that they must be tested prior to arrival on campus. Students who travel internationally or to a state identified by New York as having a COVID-19 outbreak must quarantine for 14 days before coming to campus.
Student health screening during the fall semester. Students will be required to complete an online health screening questionnaire each day. It will require students to take and report their temperature, ask them to indicate the presence of COVID-19 symptoms and ask them to report any exposure to confirmed cases. If indicated by answers, the individual will be directed to quarantine and contact Student Health Service. Students reporting COVID-19 symptoms or exposure will not be allowed on campus or outside of their residence until cleared by Student Health Service.
Student testing on campus. Student Health Service will offer some COVID-19 testing and will be able to write prescriptions to allow students to get tested at community sites.
Positive student cases. Residential students with a confirmed diagnosis will be relocated to the College’s quarantine site , Awosting Hall, which will be set aside as unoccupied at the start of the fall semester. Alternatively, such students may quarantine at home. Commuter students with a confirmed diagnosis will be directed to quarantine at home. In all cases, the College will deploy our contact tracing protocol to notify classmates and faculty members of their potential exposure and work directly with the county health department.
Social distancing on campus. It is paramount that all members of the SUNY New Paltz community understand best practices for preventing transmission of coronavirus. We all have a responsibility to one another to keep our peers, colleagues, friends and mentors safe. The current CDC guidance is that we must maintain at least 6 feet of distance where a space is occupied by more than one person with whom they are not living. Training will be provided to employees and students to ensure awareness of these protocols.
PPE. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used to prevent person-to-person transmission of coronavirus. Two masks will be provided to each employee and student. Additional PPE, such as face shields and gloves, will be allocated to staff and faculty as appropriate. Visitors are expected to bring and wear their own mask. Everyonewill be required to wear face coverings in most indoor spaces, including restrooms and all classrooms, lecture halls, common spaces, labs, elevators, studios and offices when multiple people congregate and/or ability to social distance is limited. Masks will also be required in outdoor spaces on campus where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Protocols for employees working on campus. All employees working on-campus will be expected to understand and adhere to requirements for safe social distance and mask usage. Offices are encouraged to continue using practices that avoid or reduce the frequency of in-person interaction where possible.
Employee health screening. Employees will be required to complete a daily health screening (self-screening) for any day they are planning to work on campus. Employees who present with a raised temperature (above 100 degrees) or other common COVID-19 symptoms in the course of daily health screening will not be permitted to report to campus to work and will be referred to Benefits for support and guidance.
Full return to remote operations. To prepare for the possibility that in-person, on-campus operations cannot safely be sustained, the College has developed a “Pause and Pivot” procedure that can be implemented if the College is so directed by the state’s Regional Control Room, SUNY, or the state or local Departments of Health. The plan outlines steps to be taken to shut down in-person activities, reduce campus density, including in residence halls, and return to remote operations. In this instance, most residential students will be required to depart campus.
Teaching in person. College leadership recognizes that members of the faculty may be vulnerable to COVID-19 or may have immunodeficient or immunocompromised family members, and who may be uncomfortable teaching in person for health reasons. We will accommodate such faculty in all possible cases by offering them opportunities to teach remotely and online, and will also provide the ability to participate in service and research activities virtually.
There will be a process whereby other faculty and staff may request to meet obligations remotely and every effort will be made to honor those requests while still delivering the curriculum and on-campus educational, administrative, and student support services.
Office hours and advising. Faculty will move their office hours and academic advising to remote platforms, and schedule consultations with students by telephone, video conference or email.
Additional training for remote instruction. Since May 2020, all SUNY New Paltz faculty have been enrolled in a contingency training program hosted on Blackboard. The program focuses on preparing faculty for blended delivery (with asynchronous as well as synchronous seated or online elements) to support the effort to move courses to fully remote formats.
Please visit the FAQ site to learn about updated policies and procedures for several areas including, Student Health Service, Psychological Counseling Center (PCC), EOP, Scholar’s Mentorship Program (SMP), Disability Resource Center (DRC), AC² Program, Athletic and Wellness Center, fraternities and sororities, the Student Association, University Police, Sojourner Truth Library, Mail Services, Speech-Language and Hearing Center, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, Kirk Planetarium, Smolen Observatory, Lifetime Learning Institute, The Children’s Center and use of campus grounds.
Non-campus community members. Given social distancing guidelines and to mitigate risk of COVID-19 spread, use of campus indoor facilities will be restricted to faculty, staff and students. Visitors will be allowed under current health guidelines to visit the Dorsky Museum of Art, have limited access to the Speech-Language and Hearing Center for audiology services and may utilize outdoor walkways and grounds.
Student clubs and organizations. The College will continue to use the ENGAGE online software to enable clubs to organize and plan events virtually, and to allow students to explore campus life options. In-person events will also be allowed on a limited basis per our event and gathering guidelines. The Center for Student Engagement will review in-person event requests based on this information and in keeping with reduced room capacities.
Special training for employees. All employees must complete a general training video (approximately 12 minutes) prior to returning to work on campus. The training video is available at my.newpaltz.edu through this link.
Telecommuting/working from home. The Telecommuting Pilot Program first announced in March 2020 has been extended through Oct. 2, 2020. Supervisors and employees will work together to continue telecommuting plans and staggered campus schedules to the extent that these plans meet operational needs. These plans can be updated as employee needs and operational needs change. Some units on campus will be deemed essential and will return to campus presence (while maintaining social distancing and using provided PPE).
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. We recognize that some faculty, staff and students may have health issues that raise particular concerns related to COVID-19. We encourage these campus community members to file appropriate documentation with HRDI for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More information, including HRDI’s workplace accommodation request form, is available here.
Sick leave and health screening. If an employee is quarantined, they will receive 14 calendar days of leave (in addition to any accrued sick leave). This does not have to be used continuously. In the case that an employee does not qualify for quarantine leave, an employee can use sick, Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (FEPSLA) or unpaid time. See current restrictions on COVID-19 sick leave if employees travel to states with high number of virus cases.
Non-health factors. We recognize that some employees may have childcare or other responsibilities and risk factors outside of health that may make it difficult for them to return to campus this fall. Employees are encouraged to work with their supervisors and HRDI to share concerns and establish continued telecommuting plans, where possible. HRDI is available to provide further support, as needed.
To develop our plans, the College convened a COVID-19 Planning Team that included representatives from across the academic and administrative units on campus, including all five academic deans, and specialists in emergency management, environmental health and safety, health services, information technology, online learning, human resources, diversity and inclusion, student affairs, residence life, communication and government relations. The Planning Team developed policies, guidelines and recommendations with a focus on continuing to fulfill the College’s educational mission in a fiscally responsible way, while maintaining our community’s health and safety and consistent with state guidance for public universities. Work group engagement, as well as consultations, took place through our existing structures and with faculty and student governance, among others. Additional input will be sought this summer from faculty, staff, students, and UUP Executive Committee representatives in addressing further considerations for implementation.
Donald P. Christian